‘Tis the season for… awkward conversations around the cookie table. Ever wonder why some conversations go really well — so well that you could have gone on for hours talking? What about the discussions that go so horribly wrong that you can’t leave fast enough? Have you experienced those before, too?

At some point during this holiday/New Year season you will inevitably find yourself face-to-face with a group of people and will need to navigate the conversational waters. Whether it is with family members over dinner, at an office party or during your friend’s NPR Generation Listen Party, nothing is more memorable than a great conversation.

Fortunately for all of us, Guy Raz, host of NPR’s popular TED Radio Hour, has shared with the NPR Generation Listen community five tips that you can use in any conversational scenario.

  1. Empathy.
  2. Give something, get something. If you make yourself vulnerable, others will be willing to open up to you.
  3. Be Open and curious in your conversation.
  4. Find moments of common experience whenever you can (i.e., I like jazz!/Me too!).
  5. Acknowledge silences and awkward pauses.

Raz has interviewed and profiled more than 6,000 people over the course of his career, including notable names such as Jimmy Carter, Mark Zuckerberg and Taylor Swift. When it comes to opening people up and having a good conversation, Raz is a true master. So take these tips to heart and try them out during your next conversation!

Looking for a place to hone those conversation skills? Gather a few of your friends, colleagues or carpool members and download your free NPR Generation Listen Party Kit: Giving Edition. You’ll get access to 10 specially curated stories on giving. The kit is the perfect conversation starter during the holidays and will be sure to give you and your friends plenty to talk about.